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First-Graders Get Strong Reading Start with Pilot Program at Ocean Avenue

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First-Graders Get Strong Reading Start with Pilot Program at Ocean Avenue
Posted on 10/29/2015
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Ocean Avenue Elementary School has been selected as a site for a new pilot program sponsored by Starting Strong to boost first-grade reading. The program, which is called “Reading Partners,” pairs trained volunteers from the community with first-grade students who need extra support to reach grade-level reading proficiency. More than 30 volunteers have been matched with 16 students so that each of the students reads with a volunteer twice a week.

“Ocean Avenue is excited to be a part of this initiative and to have the help of trained volunteers to read with our first-graders,” said Assistant Principal Ann Hanna.

Starting Strong is the early age component of Portland ConnectED, a community-wide partnership of agencies and organizations committed to helping Portland youth succeed, all the way from cradle to career. Starting Strong’s top priority is to help children reach reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

The focus of this volunteer program at Ocean Avenue is to build first-graders’ reading fluency, sight vocabulary and comprehension. Each student brings his/her reading books from the classroom to the library to meet with a reading partner and practice reading for twenty minutes after lunch. The volunteer provides supporting activities, including sight word recognition, reading to the child and having conversations about the book.

Ocean Avenue’s literacy coach, Beth Spinney, provided a comprehensive training session to the volunteers covering a wide range of topics. They included offering insight into how students learn to read and how to support student learning and engage students.

The program incorporates many elements of successful programs across the country: 

• Volunteers are trained by a reading specialist

• Program length is sufficient to produce results (12 or more weeks)

• Learning takes place 1:1 or in a small group

• There is regular attendance of tutors and students

• It involves intensive and consistent tutoring

Starting Strong, which is supported by United Way, provided a small grant to cover the cost of the training and materials.